The jury acquitted Higinio Salgado, 32, of first-degree murder. Sentencing was set for June 6 by San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Weber. Salgado is expected to receive a prison sentence of 15 years to life.
Downes, 56, was architect on the Tower 23 Hotel project in Pacific Beach along with the guest rooms at Hotel La Jolla, the THIN bar in downtown San Diego and Hard Rock Hotel San Diego. Downes also was credited with the overhaul of Tom Ham’s Lighthouse restaurant on Harbor Island, Bali Hai restaurant on Shelter Island and many other places downtown. Downes founded Graham Downes Architecture in 1994.
Salgado, whose trial commenced April 10, remains in jail on $3 million bail.
Witnesses testified that almost everyone, including Salgado and Downes, was drinking heavily at a party at Downes’ West Juniper Street home on April 19, 2013. Witnesses said Salgado became upset when he learned a former employee of the architect might be returning to the firm to assume a supervisory role.
Witnesses said the two eventually fought outside Downes' home. A neighbor testified he called police at 1:10 a.m. after witnessing the fight. An officer found the men lying face down on the sidewalk at 1:30 a.m., with Salgado’s arm draped over the architect. Downes was taken to a hospital, where he died three days later without regaining consciousness.
Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund cited the injuries to Downes found in the autopsy. A medical examiner official testified there were bruises consistent with strangulation, fracture of the jawbone and blunt-force trauma.
Defense attorney Jamahl Kersey argued the crime was not murder, adding the environment was a “party environment” in which “everybody is drinking.” Kersey added there was no intended malice or disregard for human life.
Jose Badillo, another defense attorney, argued Salgado was too intoxicated to have committed murder.
Graham Downes Architecture closed several months after Downes' death.